How to Replace a Camry Distributor

by Jack Hathcoat

The Toyota Camry distributor is a well-designed engine component that, as its name implies, distributes ignition spark to the spark plugs. As the engine runs, components inside the distributor spin sending high-voltage signals to each plug at precisely the right time. The Camry design is very compact. This makes the unit durable, less prone to wear, and easy to replace. However, if your Camry is not running due to ignition failure and no spark signal, it is often due to distributor failure.

Raise the Camry hood, and use a wrench to remove the negative ("-") battery cable. Use a screwdriver, and loosen the retaining screws that hold the distributor cap in place. Pull the cap out of the way.

Disconnect the distributor wiring harness. Notice how the distributor is mounted to the engine with two bolts set inside slots. These slots are used to adjust the ignition timing. By loosening the bolts and twisting the distributor, the timing -- the precise moment the spark is sent to the plug -- is altered.

Use a paint pen, and mark the exact location where the slots are adjusted and fit against the engine. Create reference points that can be duplicated on the new distributor. To maintain the ignition timing, the new distributor must fit in the same location. If not precisely aligned, the timing will be off, and the engine won't operate at peak performance.

Loosen and remove the mounting bolts with a socket wrench. Notice the direction of the rotor, the part inside the distributor that looks like a pointer. As this part spins, the pointer end, made with conductive metal, sends the spark to each spark plug wire. To install the new distributor, set its pointer to the same location at the same time as setting the base of the distributor to align with the paint marks. Twist the old distributor back and forth to loosen the seal, and pull the distributor out of its mount.

Duplicate the paint marks on the base of the new distributor. Set the rotor pointing in the same direction as the old distributor, and insert the distributor into the mounting hole. Lightly turn the rotor back and forth to help it fit into the drive slot inside the engine. Push inward on the distributor until it fully seats. Align the paint marks, and reinstall the mounting screws.

Plug in the wiring harness, and reinstall the distributor cap. Reattach the battery cable, and start the Camry.


  • check The new distributor may not come with a new rotor. It is a good idea to replace the old rotor with a new one when replacing the distributor.
  • check Lubricate the O-ring seal on the new distributor with a small amount of motor oil before installation.

Items you will need

About the Author

Jack Hathcoat has been a technical writer since 1974. His work includes instruction manuals, lesson plans, technical brochures and service bulletins for the U.S. military, aerospace industries and research companies. Hathcoat is an accredited technical instructor through Kent State University and certified in automotive service excellence.